Bonsai is a Japanese word, which can be translated as “planted in a pot”, since it is made up of the words “bon”, tray, and “sai”, cultivar. It refers to a cultivation technique that consists of planting trees and shrubs in pots by giving them a certain shape so that they look like miniature versions of themselves.
Currently, the art of making bonsai is widespread throughout much of the world, and its practice is an arduous and slow but very rewarding process. One of the things that changes the most in the care of a bonsai compared to a tree or shrub grown under normal circumstances is its watering. If you want to learn when and how to water a bonsai properly, keep reading this article where you will find a practical guide on watering bonsai.
When to water a bonsai
There is no universal rule when it comes to setting the frequency of watering bonsai . Factors as varied as the specific needs of the plant, the size of the pot and the local climate are involved in this decision.
Because of this, the best general advice we can give you is to water your bonsai when the substrate has lost a lot of moisture . At first, until you learn to recognize it with the naked eye, you can use your own finger or a wooden stick. Sink it into the ground up to an inch or two, and check if the substrate you touch is dry or wet. If it is the latter, everything is fine, while if it is dry, it is time to water. Do not overdo it with watering, since if you keep the bonsai in too humid soil, its roots can end up rotting or suffering from fungal attack.
Obviously, in the warm season you will need to water your bonsai much more often than in the cool or cold season. The best time of day to water is at sunset , so that we avoid that the drops of water can make a magnifying glass effect and concentrate the sun’s rays, burning and damaging the plant.
In addition, many species of bonsai will appreciate you spraying their leaves weekly or fortnightly, in order to clean them of deposited dust and dirt, especially if they are indoors.
How to water a bonsai step by step
There are two main ways to water bonsai, with a watering can in the traditional way or by immersion.
How to water a bonsai with a watering can
If you water in the traditional way, with a shower, choose one that has a head with very fine holes, so that the water falls in jets as fine as possible. In this way, the water becomes more oxygenated and does not drag or deteriorate the substrate when it falls. In addition, bonsai are usually watered in two steps:
- Make a first superficial watering whose objective is to open the pores of the substrate and improve its absorption.
- The second watering, do it once the water from the first has been absorbed, and this time you have to do an abundant watering, until all the soil is soaked and the water comes out through the drainage holes of the pot.
- If it is in a tray, the excess water must be removed a few minutes after watering.
Immersion irrigation in bonsai
- Prepare a container to fill with water, in which you will submerge the bonsai up to the surface of the earth, no more.
- Leave it in the water for about 5 minutes, until bubbles stop coming out of the soil, which is when the soil will be completely soaked.
- After that time, remove the pot from the water and allow the drainage holes to remove all the excess.
The most recommended is to alternate the two types of irrigation of the bonsai , since immersion irrigation is more complete and can make up for the specific deficiencies of a watering can that is not completely well done or help the bonsai to recover if it has been without it for a long time. be watered.
It is also important to use rainwater or osmotized water , both for irrigation and for spraying water on the leaves , since tap water contains elements, such as lime or chlorine, that can stain or damage the plant. If you don’t have access to water of this type, bottled from a weakly mineralized spring is also a good option. In case you have no choice but to use plain tap water, let it rest in a container for 12 to 24 hours. In this way, minerals and unwanted elements will settle to the bottom, ridding your bonsai of a good part of them.
Bonsai care – basic guide
Apart from pruning , which is the main pillar in the creation of a bonsai, it is worth mentioning its main care. As we have already talked about irrigation, we will go on to talk about other important points of bonsai care :
- Substrate: we must choose a light one that does not retain too much moisture. A widely used mixture is a part of pomice, a part of volcanic rock and two parts of akadama, although it requires fairly frequent watering.
- Location and light: the location and light needs or not of the bonsai will depend entirely on the specific characteristics of its species. Therefore, it is vital that you inform yourself very well of the specific needs of the species of the small tree you choose when purchasing it in a specialized store.
- Transplantation: in a similar way to the light and the location will occur with transplants, since it will depend on the root system and growth speed of the plant.